Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Begone Beast!

The snowy images below are making me feel cold and are not in keeping with spring, so hopefully this post will shove them down to the bottom a bit.

Since it became a little milder last Friday I have had the moth trap on each night in an attempt to get the garden species list up after weeks of cold weather. Here are some of the moths so far...


Dark Chestnut
Hebrew Character


Pine Beauty
Early Moth

March Moth
I have had 9 sp in total but didnt photograph Pale Brindled Beauty or Agonopterix heracliana / ciliella. It great to get the light back on...

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Days 4 and 5. Coming to a close.

Whilst this weather event is quite significant and may be the worst snow we've seen for 8 years, lets not forget, it is still spring. Daylight is about 3 hours longer than at the turn of the year and as a consequence of this increased lighting, birds are still coming into breeding fettle. Today, some birds were singing over snow drifts, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Dunnock and my first Blackbird of the year. It is this that reassures me that try as it may, this wintry spell will be short lived. Roll on the first bumblebee...

The last two days have seen a light thaw giving us access to roads so we can get shopping for supplies. For the wildlife this cant come quick enough. Many thrushes of 5 species are still coming to the garden for food and down on the coast path, good numbers of Lapwing, Golden Plover, Snipe and Fieldfare search for unfrozen ground.

Yesterday I took a walk along the coast to Howick Burn mouth. The sea was a turmoil, raging away, flinging spray and spume up into the woods and fields. A large flock of gulls feeding in the close breakers held 300+ Black headeds, 100+ Common and some Herring and Great black backed while interest came with an adult winter Mediterranean Gull and a first summer Kittiwake, my first of the year.

A walk through Howick Hall Arboretum flushed 9 Woodcock and later on a further 6 were seen at dusk flighting down to the sea shore to feed, including a flock of 4 together.

This evening a Barn Owl was hunting in daylight over the back field behind our house. It looked very white uplit by the snow. I would imagine it has gone hungry recently as the rodents are safely tucked away under 6 inches of snow. I hope some of the hungry chilled birds are not being wasted....
The burn mouth at a raging high tide. I had to wade waist deep through sea foam...
The Arboretum

A partially frozen Pond and Pond Field.

The newly ploughed coast road. Freedom.
Fieldfare and blackbird looking for bits under my car.

This bedraggled Mistle Thrush was new in today, only briefly.

This harsh spell takes its toll...a weak Song Thrush found outside, died soon after.

All looking for softer ground.

Golden Plover.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Day 3... Snowmaggeddon.

It doesn't take long in enforced confinement for the mind to wander. Today dawned even whiter than yesterday, with at least another 4" of snow on the flat overnight with drifts doubling in size to over 5 feet in places. With no prospect of getting to work, or even moving the car, our village was effectively cut off from the world. A bit like 'The Shining' starring Jack Nicholson. To put the readers mind at rest, I haven't started murdering neighbours. Yet....

With little else to do, I went out to get a few more village photos to document the coldest spring day I can remember, and the most snow since 2010.

Wildlife was almost absent. Unlike places in the south there was no hard weather movement here, as our birds and those to the north of us, had already gone. What we have now are a few hardy, desperate souls, fighting for survival. I have been topping up bird food and water all day, so we have been inundated with garden birds, a bit like people at the co-op fighting to buy the last near sell-by loaf on the shelves.

At the feeders were - 50+ Starlings, 45+ Tree Sparrows, 15+ House Sparrows, 10 Chaffinches, 7 Dunnocks, 4 Robins, 8+ Blue Tits, 2 Great Tits, a Coal Tit, 16+ Blackbirds, 6+ Song Thrushes, 2 Redwing, 1 Fieldfare, 2 Woodpigeons, 10 Jackdaws, a Wren and a Goldcrest. In the back field over the garden wall were 1 Curlew, 1 Reed Bunting and 1 Skylark.

No Goldfinches or woodpeckers today. Or raptors at all.

The snow seems to have stopped but the wind has increased to 50 mph and is gusting bitterly around our gable end.

On the BBC News, reporters at Glasgow (west), Falmouth (South West) and Yorkshire (Inland North) but no mention of Northumberland, despite it having the highest snow fall in the UK yesterday at Boulmer just along the road.  The clue was in the name 'Beast from the EAST' ...I am looking forward to the snow images from Falmouth.

Here are some of today's images.

The snow has drifted to the top of Morris's four foot fence .

Our main road. At least 18" deep drifted snow on the level. No one in or out until a snowplough arrives.

A cold scene behind our house today.

Snow hole. That wall is 7 feet high with the drift at 6 feet.

Our other road out of the village. 4 feet here....

This Coal Tit was eating the snow.

Song Thrushes digging under anything without snow cover for food.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Beast.....

What a difference since Monday! Around our house this morning... maybe more to come later...

Since I took these, things have just gone downhill. The wind has increased from the east, drifting the constant snowfall into 2ft deep wedges through gates and across roads. At the time of writing [ 2pm] it is a white-out across the fields behind us. When walking out, you need to keep your face covered or it will freeze and the dry wind blasted snow is stinging. The roads are closed on both of my available routes to work, so I am now on holiday.

Our garden is heaving with birds. We have fed them three times and changed the water four times as it freezes. There are 100+ Starlings, 60+ Tree and House Sparrows, 20+ Chaffinches, 7 Robins, 6 Dunnocks, a wren, 6+ Redwings, 6+ Fieldfares and 20+ Blackbirds. Out in the back field are 6 Skylarks and a Meadow Pipit, 2 Grey Partridges with 2 Golden Plovers and a Curlew all trying to get respite from that Siberian wind.

Hopefully this wont last too long after all, it is March tomorrow. I cant see the Garden Moth Scheme opener being up to much on Friday!

Above - This Redwing didnt look too good, sleeping during the day.

A fitter Redwing than at the top, but it still looks bewildered by the freeze.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Anyone think of a headline about a Bittern?.....

Saturday was chilly but bright, so Jane, Peggy and I took a drive west over to Harwood Forest for a walk. Little Peggy is very timid of loud noises so our coastal bird scarers have her a nervous wreck in minutes.

Harwood is very remote and is generally silent and free from traffic or industrial noises so seemed ideal for an afternoon walk. Only the usual pine forest species were active with Crossbills, Siskins and Coal Tits, Sparrowhawk and Great spotted Woodpecker plus 3 Roe Deer to break the monotony.

Sunday was bitterly cold, dry and breezy. The kind of wind that chilled the bones within minutes of exposure. The beginnings of this 'Beast from the East' had John and me seeking shelter where ever it could be found. Once out of the wind, the day wasn't too bad at all.... 

A short scan of the Coquet Estuary from Amble Marina seemed a little quiet, with 29 Whooper Swans N being the highlight.

Down at Druridge Bay Country Park, we scanned the lake for wildfowl. This used to be the county's premier site for Smew 20 years ago but not these days. Maybe the cold on the continent will drive a 'white nun' across the North Sea. Its years since Ive seen one here.

At the boat launch, this darvic ringed Black headed Gull has wintered here from Norway for the last 5 years. On the water, 5 Red breasted Merganser and a Pochard were the best, while down at the feeding station 10 Bullfinches were cleaning up the last of the feed.

The area was quite busy with dog walkers so we drove around to East Chevington and walked up to the L shaped hide to get out of the wind. These steel structures are cold in July, but at least they keep the wind chill off.

From here, 3 Otters cavorted at the south end of the pool for a while and on the lake, 32+ Goldeneye had a lone Long tailed Duck for company.

After a short wait John called me to look north, where a Bittern had jumped from the reeds and was flying along the north shore before dropping back into the phragmites at the NW corner. 

Distant Otters...

Distant Bittern....
 So what started as a bit of an ordinary day didnt turn out badly after all....

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

In the woods....

On Sunday I met John at Homebase at 7.30am when we headed south to Morpeth before crossing over west via Elsdon and back to Alnwick by Rothbury and Alnwick Moor.

The day was calm and frosty, very pleasant indeed.

First stop was at Abbey Mill where two Marsh Tits were calling and flitting around near the bridge layby. Its not so long ago you could bump into Marsh Tits in any wooded areas such as Howick, Warkworth, Bothal, Morpeth etc but now they are very scarce indeed, meriting almost twitchable status. These are my first for a couple or three years now.

From here, a short walk to the Hornbeam row found a pair of Hawfinches, the male in full song. It seems that there are very few keys left on these particular trees for them to feed on so maybe they've dispersed further.

Hawfinch pair, him on the left.

A quick check of the River Wansbeck near the car park had a brace of Dippers sitting about 2 feet apart, back to back in a territorial border dispute.

A successful start then.

We decided to head inland to Harwood Forest and old stamping ground of mine. I used to come here every Saturday morning walking the dog, for several years back in the day, where Long eared Owl, Hen Harrier, Gos, Great Grey Shrike, Two barred Crossbill and Water Rail [?] were noteworthy.

No such goodies today on offer but we had a good walk for a few miles around the clear felled conifer blocks, seeing only Crossbills really. Maybe 30+?  but this did include a nice family party with well fledged young being fed.

A couple of Red Grouse chased around the moor, but then it was time for a scenic route home.


We had a brief stop to check out a site near Elsdon for a visit in summer for inverts, flowers etc.

Today it looked like this...

It might be in interesting place in June....